Rethinking Low-Code Platforms Through Software Automation

C. Dunlap

Summary Bullets:

  • Low-code platforms will continue to consolidate key technologies including AI, RPA, and OCR.
  • This month, two key acquisitions build on low-code momentum: Google-AppSheet and Appian-Novayre.

Last year’s consolidation of low-code platforms, in which AI played the most prominent role, has elevated the enterprise application platforms to new heights of innovation addressing operations’ most pressing issue: the need for software automation. The latest low-code trend supporting automation is the addition of robotic process automation (RPA), a promising technology which helps enterprises eliminate repetitive tasks in the app modernization process.

Enterprise developers have come a long way since Salesforce introduced its Lightning Platform several years ago for easing frontend app development and encouraging a broader set of coders under the notion of citizen developers. Since that time, low-code platforms have earned growing respect among enterprise developers and now, increasingly, among DevOps participants, especially in light of the solutions’ adoption of automation including RPA.

The year has hardly begun and we’ve already seen two related acquisitions, illustrating the technology’s growing importance. Last week, low-code leader Appian acquired RPA provider Novayre for its Jidoka platform, representing one of the first vendors to bring the technology in-house. The acquisition shores up its competitive threat in the low-code space opposite pure-play rivals (e.g., Salesforce, Pegasys, Mendix, OutSystems, and others) and larger cloud providers (e.g., Microsoft and IBM). In addition to being available as an add-on to the Appian platform, the technology enhances Appian’s Robotic Workforce Manager, a solution which manages RPA deployments. (For more, please see Appian Raises the Bar in Low-Code Platforms via Software Robotics Acquisition,” January 9, 2020.)

Pure-plays such as Appian face pressure from cloud giants which will eventually offer low-code and RPA as a feature within their platform services. Low-code providers also face app platform giants embedding automation into innovative new solutions. For example, IBM Digital Business Automation (DBA) is an architecture that streamlines operations via work automation, orchestration, and instrumentation. The solution delivers automation to particular processes, enabled through advanced technologies including AI, RPA, and we anticipate eventually others such as optical character recognition (OCR). Note, at this stage, rivals such as IBM and Microsoft offer RPA through partnerships, including Automation Anywhere.

This week, Google has upped its automation game in the highly competitive public cloud space by enhancing its enterprise developer and DevOps-related portfolio through an acquisition of AppSheet. The app platform startup’s no-code platform will help promote the use of Google technologies among business users, including Google’s workflow automation, app support, and API management technologies. Within Google Cloud, AppSheet is already integrated with Google Sheets and Google Forms.

The acquisition also builds on additional automation innovations by Google. As mentioned above, OCR is low-code’s next anticipated advanced technology consolidation. Google is making strides in this area, and as an Appian partner, we expect the technology to make its way into Appian’s low-code solution in addition to enhancing its own GCP.

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